Although he may have seemed an unlikely choice of action hero when the project was first announced, Matt Damon proved a capable and charismatic lead for 2002's The Bourne Identity, a nominal adaptation of the Robert Ludlum thriller. The film revitalized the international espionage genre, long since flagging under the weight of the aging and increasingly irrelevant James Bond franchise and its imitators. The movie was a big hit and spawned an equally successful sequel, The Bourne Supremacy, that like its predecessor knows how to grab an audience by the throat and not let go until they're exhausted from the thrill ride.
As we last left our amnesiac hero, Jason Bourne had fallen off the grid to live in seclusion with his new girlfriend (Franka Potente). As Supremacy opens we find them in India, but more importantly so does a Russian assassin who'd already framed Bourne for a political hit in Berlin and now wants to tie up the loose ends. Soon on the run from both the mysterious group that set him up and the CIA who want to take him into custody, Bourne must once again jump into the fray of international intrigue to find out why he's being hunted and scare everyone into leaving him the hell alone.
Smart, capable, inventive, and dangerous, Jason Bourne is everything James Bond has forgotten how to be. He's a no-nonsense intelligence operative who dispenses with the bad puns and sexist womanizing in favor of strategic, decisive action. Trained and ready to kill whenever necessary, Bourne is faster, stronger, and smarter than anyone sent against him. This is not a man you want to mess with.
Perhaps even more so than the first film, The Bourne Supremacy shares next to nothing in common with its source novel other than the title (for a more faithful adaptation of Ludlum's writing, the 1988 Bourne Identity TV miniseries starring Richard Chamberlain honestly isn't half bad). The Matt Damon movies are action pictures first and foremost, fortunately graced with intelligent scripts, terrific casts (how can you go wrong with Chris Cooper, Brian Cox, and Joan Allen among the featured players?), and crackerjack directing. Taking over the reigns from Doug Liman, new director Paul Greengrass brings a very tense, visceral immediacy to the franchise. Some viewers have criticized his shaky-cam style, but he certainly puts you right in the thick of the action, which can be just as disorienting as it is intense. He stages hand-to-hand combat with a raw brutality and delivers a climactic car chase that may be the grisliest ever put to film. Quibble if you want, but the Bourne movies are great entertainment and The Bourne Supremacy is every bit as good as the first film.
The HD DVD:
[Update: The Bourne Identity was finally released on HD DVD in July of 2007.]
HD DVD discs are only playable in a compatible HD DVD player. They will not function in a standard DVD player or in a Blu-Ray player. Please note that the star rating scales for video and audio are relative to other High Definition disc content, not to traditional DVD.
Now this is what High Definition is all about! The video transfer on this disc is, in a word, fantastic. The picture is razor sharp with an outstanding sense of three-dimensional depth. Colors are incredibly vivid and the contrast range is flawless from the inky blacks of Berlin at night to the blinding whites of Moscow snow. This is a slick, glossy, and enormously impressive image that far and away exceeds anything possible on DVD.
Any issues I found are all minor. The movie's photography is occasionally grainy, though the grain is generally well rendered and doesn't look like video noise. The sharpness and detail in the picture are very pleasing, but in a few scenes did seem to be artificially enhanced. I had to walk right up to my screen to look for edge halos, and although I did find some around sharply contrasted black-against-white edges, they're so minor that this is really a case of perfectionist nit-picking. This is a great-looking disc, and of the titles released so far is my choice of demo material for showing off the HD DVD format.
The Bourne Supremacy HD DVD is not flagged with an Image Constraint Token and will play in full High Definition quality over an HD DVD player's analog Component Video outputs.
Subs & Dubs:
An enormously fun movie with eye-popping HD picture, great sound, and a pretty interesting new approach to interacting with video supplements, The Bourne Supremacy HD DVD has got a little of everything you could want in home video entertainment. Highly Recommended.